Vang Vieng Overview
Vang Vieng serves as the “Adventure Capital” of Laos, now that the increasingly toxic party atmosphere has been cracked down on as a result of deaths. Now this small town set amidst an absolutely stunning landscape offers copious amounts of activities for the adventurous types.
Once the party capital of Laos, Vang Vieng has now become a thriving adventure centre, after the government cracked down on the drug trade and rave bars in town. In the town itself there’s not much to see, as the buildings are uninspired concrete structures, but a quick hop across the river and you’ll find yourself in rural paradise. Activities are plentiful, with the most popular being tubing, kayaking, rock climbing and ziplining. The tubing takes you about 3,5km down the Song River back to Vang Vieng from the starting point. While this used to be a prime activity for drunk teenagers on a gap year, it’s strongly recommended that you do this sober, as the river can flow fast at times. If you prefer more control while you’re on the river, you may prefer kayaking to tubing. This activity is particularly convenient as a means to reach the many caves in the surrounding area, and many tour operators offer combined tours with both kayaking and caving or rock climbing.
The highlight of the caves is unquestionably Tham Nam, 500 meters long with a small river flowing out of its entrance, giving it a magical look. Tham Jang is perhaps the most famous, as it served as a bunker to defend against invading Chinese war bands in the early 1800’s. Tham Hoi is absolutely massive at 3km long, and even contains a vast underground lake. Tham Phu Kham is also gigantic and features another underground lagoon, this one sacred to the local population and travellers are permitted to take a swim in the calm cave waters to cool down. For a more untouched cavern, pay Tham Loup a visit, where giant stalactites crawl down from the ceiling. The limestone walls around the village have gained a reputation as one of the foremost rock climbing spots in all of South East Asia, and the locals have seized on this, creating dozens of climbing routes. These range from relatively non-challenging routes at Tham Non to the more difficult ones at Sleeping Wall, where some of the routes have terrifying overhangs you need to overcome. Bear in mind that rock climbing can for the most part only be done between October and May, as it’s too wet otherwise.
For travellers looking for an adrenaline hit, ziplining through the treetops is a perfect option that has long been popular in Vang Vieng, or if you want to get even higher, you can hop in a hot air balloon for a 40 minute flight. This lets you enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the gorgeous landscape around the town.